Tips to protect your business when using cheques
Technology means that cheques can fall victim to fraudsters.
Where a customer is the drawer of a cheque which has not been altered and paid into an account other than that of the intended beneficiary (i.e. Payee), there is no liability on the Bank to pay the cheque / or reimburse the customer, as it has been issued in accordance to the mandate.
Follow our advice below to help protect yourself from loss.
Keep only the stock you need – cheque designs and layouts change to combat fraudsters – if you have lots of older cheques, you won’t benefit.
Be wary of undelivered cheque books – contact us to make sure we’ve sent them.
Flick through new cheque books to look for any cheques that have been stolen before they got to you.
Make a record of the new cheque books in your usual manner, and store all your cheques in a secure place.
Keep them separate – always store cheques away from your bank mandate.
Regularly make sure that all unused cheques remain in the book.
Want to customise your cheques? All cheque designs need to have strict anti-fraud devices and other industry standards. We’re happy to give you the advice you need.
Only have essential information on your cheques. For example, avoid labelling the signature area with designations such as ‘Director’ and ‘Secretary’. This could give potential fraudsters valuable information about your company’s signing requirements.
Keep your secrets – never print signing instructions on the cheque, such as upper limits.
Using cheques for payment
Write cheques in serial number order and make sure all cheques remain in the book, with none removed from the middle or back.
Write or print starting from the very left and use reasonably large writing or font size.
When you’re writing a cheque to a large organisation such as HM Revenue and Customs, never simply make the cheque payable to that organisation. Always add further details on the payee line, for example ‘HM Revenue and Customs re JJ Jones Acc Ref 1234567’.
Draw a line through unused areas, including the ends of lines. This stops fraudsters adding extra information. Don’t leave large spaces between words.
Be careful with the figure box – never put a space between the ‘£’ and the amount you are paying. Always draw a line through any spaces you don’t use after the numbers.
Account for spoiled cheques. If you do spoil a cheque, make sure you destroy it properly.
If you have to send a cheque by post, don’t give any clues on the envelope that could tell fraudsters what’s inside. Avoid using window envelopes.
Consider sending high value cheques via secure mail
Reconciling your cheques
Make a date to reconcile – you should really match the frequency of your reconciliation with the amount of cheques you produce. If you issue cheques every day, you should reconcile regularly.
Keep it separate – it’s a good idea for one person to write cheques, and another to reconcile cheques.
Go back to the paperwork – verify all the cheques you’ve written against underlying paperwork, such as invoices. This helps to make sure the cheques have been raised for legitimate purposes.
Audit your cheque stocks – to check for missing cheques and other anomalies.
Be wary of late presentation – if a cheque hasn’t been presented after a reasonable time, you need to find out why. It’s also worth remembering that a missing cheque could have been stolen and paid into a fraudster’s account. At the same time, a cheque that is presented later than expected may have been ‘borrowed’ and the information taken for use in a future fraud.
If a cheque is overdue for presentation, talk to the payee, check if it was received and put a stop on the cheque if you have to.
If you need to issue a large number of cheques, there are reconciliation services which can reduce the burden on your business. Simply speak to your relationship manager.
The clearing cycle calculator
How does the above impact you?
If you pay a cheque in to your account on a Monday, you can expect to earn interest (if the account pays interest on credit balances) two working days later on Wednesday (Transaction day (T) + 2).
This is also the point at which money will reduce the amount of your overdraft interest charged (if applicable).
Funds can be withdrawn by day five (Friday) T+4.
By the end of day seven the second Tuesday T+6, the money cannot be reclaimed after this time (i.e. as a result of a cheque being returned unpaid).
Any unpaid cheques returned too late, i.e. after Transaction day +6, will not be debited to your account.
If you are ever requested to provide a refund to a customer, you should always wait until T+7, to be certain their original payment has fully cleared. A scam linked to the clearing cycle is the 'Overpayment scam' which you can read more about here